Apple makes great keyboards — they work well, they look really nice, and they’re designed to work perfectly with your Mac. But every once in a while something goes wrong.
Maybe you plug your keyboard in and nothing happens. Maybe your computer isn’t picking up the Bluetooth signal from the board. Maybe your keys aren’t doing anything. Here’s how to fix it.
For Wireless Apple Keyboards
We’ll start with wireless, as there are a few more things that can go wrong compared to wired counterparts. No matter what’s happening with your keyboard, try these steps first:
1. Make sure Bluetooth is on and working
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wondered what’s going on with my accessories before figuring out that my laptop’s Bluetooth was off. To make sure it’s on, go to System Preferences > Bluetooth and enable it.
The System Preferences panel will tell you if devices are connected, if they’re low on battery, or if there are any other errors. If the preferences panel or your menubar show a Bluetooth icon with a jagged line through it (see the image below), that means your Bluetooth is offline. Restart your Mac and see if that helps. If not, unplug all USB devices and restart again.
2. Make sure your keyboard is on
It isn’t always easy to tell if an Apple Bluetooth keyboard is powered on. Press the power button (pictured below) and watch the indicator light. If it stays on for several seconds and turns off, your keyboard has been connected. If it blinks repeatedly, it’s in discovery mode and looking for your computer. If the light doesn’t do anything at all, check the batteries in your device.
After your device is on, go back to the Bluetooth preferences panel and see if it’s connected. If your keyboard is searching for your computer but not connecting, right-click on your keyboard in the list of devices and select Connect (if your device isn’t listed, skip ahead to “Re-pair your keyboard with your computer”).
3. Check the battery level of your keyboard
If the batteries on your keyboard are getting low, you may have some performance problems. Go to System Preferences > Keyboard and go to the Keyboard tab. The battery level of your keyboard will be shown in the bottom-left corner.
You can also see the battery level of any of your connected devices by clicking on the Bluetooth icon in the menubar and hovering over the device you’re interested in.
4. Make sure mouse keys and slow keys are turned off
Go to System Preferences > Accessibility and select Mouse & Trackpad from the menu on the left. Make sure that Enable Mouse Keys is unchecked. This option allows you to control the mouse using keyboard keys, resulting in a number of keys possibly not working.
Next click on Keyboard in the left sidebar and make sure that Enable Slow Keys in unchecked. This requires keys to be pressed longer to be registered as a press.
5. Re-pair your keyboard with your computer
In the Bluetooth preferences panel, make sure that Bluetooth is enabled. Mouse over your keyboard in the list of devices, and click on the “X” on the right side of the entry. A warning will appear telling you that you may need to re-pair your device next time you use it. Click Remove.
Turn off your keyboard, and turn it back on. The indicator light should start blinking. Open the Keyboard options in System Preferences and click on Set up Bluetooth keyboard. Follow the instructions to pair your keyboard.
For Wired USB Apple Keyboards
If you have a wired Apple keyboard that’s not working, take the following steps to diagnose and solve the problem.
1. Try a different USB port
Unplug your keyboard from the current USB port and try another one. If it works, you can try it in the original port again. If it only works in one USB port, you may have a problem with the ports on your computer (try resetting the SMC and PRAM).
2. Check the System Report
From the Apple Menu (top left of the screen), click About This Mac. Then click the System Report button. Once the system report window has opened, click on USB in the Hardware section of the left sidebar. From here, you can see what your computer is reading from your USB ports.
If your computer has detected the keyboard, you’ll see “Apple Keyboard” listed under one of the USB ports. If it’s not listed, try restarting your computer and resetting the SMC and PRAM.
3. Turn Bluetooth off
Go to System Preferences > Bluetooth and make sure that Bluetooth is off. If this solves the problem, it’s possible that your computer is recognizing a Bluetooth keyboard and prioritizing it over your USB keyboard. If you need to keep Bluetooth on, you can remove the keyboard from the list by clicking on the “X” on the right side of the entry in your System Preferences > Bluetooth device list to remove it.
4. Make sure mouse keys and slow keys are turned off
Go to System Preferences > Accessibility and select “Mouse & Trackpad” from the menu on the left. Make sure that “Enable Mouse Keys” is unchecked.
Click on “Keyboard” in the left sidebar and make sure that Enable Slow Keys in unchecked.
5. Connect your keyboard through an extension cord or USB hub
Apple’s USB keyboards come with a USB extension cord that increases the reach of the included USB cord. Try plugging your keyboard into one end of this cord and the other into your computer. If you don’t have a USB extension cord, you can also use a USB hub.
No one seems to know why this is so effective, but it often works!
Know When to Admit Defeat
As with any troubleshooting attempt, it’s good to know when to admit defeat. If you try the solutions above and none of them work, it might be time to consult staff at your local Apple store (particularly if the device is under warranty). You can also try searching for your specific problem online and finding others who have solved that issue. You might also want to consider a solid keyboard alternative to the Mac keyboard.
If your keys are jammed, refer to our troubleshooting guide for MacBook Butterfly keyboards. If you’re having other problems with your Mac, try our guide to troubleshooting your Apple computer. Good luck!
Have you had trouble with an Apple keyboard? How did you fix the issue? Share your experiences below!